“Would you like one more?” our server asks about a panipuri the size of a thumbnail. Certainly, we say, because the first one was somehow hardly enough - and too much at the same time.
At Trèsind, the first course in the chef's nine-course tasting menu is in fact a trio of tiny plates, including this tittle of a puri on chaat masala-spiked savoury boondi. It is small but fierce – inside the puri is a frozen chutney that explodes on the palate and then vanishes. You'll want one more only to understand what just happened inside your mouth.
Astonishment is a common theme during a meal at Trèsind. In a little over two hours, you will sample a series of cleverly composed plates with unintuitive, deeply textural flavour combinations. About half the dishes are eaten without cutlery. A dahi kebab mousse is veiled under a square of aloo papad and topped with muhammara chatni you'll want to lick off your fingers. There is rasam spiked with watermelon, around a pile of springy ghee roast prawns topped with whipped feta. There is tingly chicken cafreal, on a single fragrant uber-crunchy tempura-ed shiso leaf. (Vegetarians get paneer cafreal.) A lamb khari sits in a pool of nihari gravy that tastes like it's been slow cooked for days. Here, vegetarians get onion khari, and the sauce around it is comparable in its depth. There is a small scoop of khandvi ice cream topped with fafda, on papaya chatni, alongside a pickled “marcha”. Yes, this sounds disgusting. It is, in fact, delightful. Our Gujarati dining companion said so.
A “family picnic” is served in a fancy tiffin box, opened table-side. It's the only course that does not get the modernist treatment: inside is mattar luchi and kosha mangsho with carrot pickle. Taste this, but leave it, take a breather, pick up a cocktail (may we recommend an applewood-smoked Old Fashioned?) walk around the room and make space for the khichdi that follows. The SKID-designed room has clean lines, warm lighting, and an aquatic theme. It takes a while to notice that its patterns and layout evoke waves and ripples, but once you see this, you can't unsee it.
Back at the table, there is a laser cut marble map of India waiting. It's dotted with vatis, each containing smidges of ingredients representing 20 states in India: saffron, green apples, gunpowder, biryani masala, ghee, white butter, and more. All of this goes on, or if you like, in the khichdi. Have it in 20 different tasting bites, or stir it all in for a khichdi of flavoured confetti.
Chef Himanshu Saini cut his teeth with chef Manish Mehrotra at Indian Accent, and then helmed Masala Library before joining Trèsind in Dubai. The Mumbai outpost offers classic Saini: very traditional, regional Indian flavours given modernist expressions and playful textures. Also available is an intricate menu of drinks featuring in-house bitters, tinctures and shrubs, three styles of cocktails in eight varieties each, and five drinks for teetotallers.
Indeed, everything at Trèsind's tables is immensely 'gram-mable – but this is also a meal that would be a joy to eat blindfolded, or in the dark, phone-less.
Except the pre-dessert “sadya”, that is, where payasam sits on a banana leaf alongside a slice of pineapple stuffed with coconut. It's trying too hard, and it makes us crave a simple, sharp, citrusy sorbet instead.
The meal ends with a nod to chef Manish's glorious daulat ki chaat. A puff of aerated kaju katli topped with shredded soan papdi, sliced nuts, and a single rose petal is all the dessert we need. It arrives under a magnifying glass that could be mistaken for an SLR camera lens. Peer in, and every crevasse and shard of the cloud under it is amplified. Even so, this bit of viewing equipment feels like the only unnecessary flourish in a meal that is startling and satisfying. If anything needs magnification, it is the first flavour grenade, the panipuri.
Getting there: Inspire BKC, opposite Asian Heart Hospital, Bandra Kurla Complex, call 8928000057. A meal for two with a drink each is approximately Rs 6,000.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC, lives in Mumbai and writes mostly about food and travel for many a publication. She’s a contributing editor at Vogue magazine, and her words have also been found in Conde Nast Traveller, Mint Lounge, Scroll.in, The Hindu, Saveur, The Guardian, and Travel + Leisure, among others. She's crazy about obscure ingredients, and she always knows where to go back for seconds. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @roshnibajaj.
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